Magazines come in all shapes and sizes, finesse and finish, from professional to amateur, glossy to gauche. With its largely leisure associations it’s strange to realise the word has industrial and even military origins, from the Arabic makhazin (“stores”) through French magasin and Italian magazzino (“warehouse”), and on to its conflation with arsenal. It only acquired its modern meaning of periodical after the 18th-century Gentleman’s Magazine included it in its title to suggest a “storehouse of information”.
So we’re all familiar with the concept of magazines now but, innocent that I am, I’d never come across mini-zines before. So I was pleased to be sent (via an offer on Lory’s blog Emerald City Book Review) two Elsewhere Minizines. These really live up to their name. Made of one sheet of A4, photocopied on one side and then cunningly cut and folded into A7 format, the eight-page contructions are like a cross between origami and pocket notebook. They certainly have the prerequisites of zines: small circulation, cheaply produced and self-published, very distant relatives of the commercially produced herd animals that overpopulate newsagents’ shelves.
The two I have before me have been produced by Marisa Repin, from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Marisa describes herself as “Bookseller. Nerd. Zinester. Arashian.” Now, two of these terms are new to me, perhaps to you too. Zinester means a creator or distributor of a zine, while Arashian signifies a follower of Japanese boy band Arashi. Marisa posts on several platforms about subjects as diverse as feminism, mythology and folklore; with an MA in English Studies she is also interested in YA fiction and children’s fiction, which is where these minizines come in.
They’re entitled Five Diana Wynne Books. Volume I is by Daphne Lee, while the second book is by Marisa herself; both were published in November 2014. Daphne Lee is an author and book editor, also from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, and has read a good many Diana Wynne Jones novels. In her introduction she tells us she’s picked the five novels that she re-reads: the “subversive” The Time of the Ghost, the “clever” Howl’s Moving Castle, the “wickedly hilarious” Dark Lord of Derkholm, Hexwood (which she finds “complex and multi-layered”, and I agree with her) and, unsurprisingly, Deep Secret. For Marisa, Diana sets the standard for what she thinks of as good in children’s fiction. Her chosen five are Fire and Hemlock (naturally), Eight Days of Luke (horrible families), Archer’s Goon (more horrible families), Power of Three (a more traditional fantasy) and the first of the Chrestomanci books Charmed Life (oddly enough, a horrible family member).
So, yes, these zines are indeed mini, but like any good magazine (whether in the warehouse sense or the other) packed with information, micro-critiques and personal responses. I found them charming and, especially as I’ve read all ten titles, validating. Even if you’d not read any Diana Wynne Jones your interest could hardly fail to be piqued. Enquiries about these (and about a third volume in this zine series) can be addressed to elsewherebooks (at) gmail.com
This is the first in an irregular series looking at magazines, journal and periodicals as a change from the book format reviews usually featured here.